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'DNA' Drive: Discovery of a road-rocket

Friday, 12 October 2012 - 11:30am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
We take Land Rover’s most capable vehicle besides the Defender for a spin.

Of late, Land Rovers are known for being very luxurious cars that celebrities are seen in rather than the utilitarian off-roads that they used to be, but beneath their shiny metal skins and leather-clad interiors lies a beast, one that is capable of taking on all kinds of roads, or lack thereof.

On these pages, you’ve seen the reviews of the smaller Freelander and the superbly chic Evoque, but now it’s time to bring out the big guns, we thought. So, let’s get right to it and check out the Discovery 4, the 2012 version. The Discovery has always been their happy-medium product. One for people looking for more luxury than the Defender, but not quite as posh as the Rangie. Let’s check out what it’s all about.

Looks
When seen by itself, this car is an unmistakable slab of angular metal, which looks as if it was designed using only rulers, but at the same time, there are enough details to keep the design from looking cheap or dated.

Things like the LED rings around the headlamps and the very rugged looking external fittings like the door handles and wing mirrors give it a classy utilitarian feel. You wouldn’t be surprised to see something like this climbing an impossibly steep hill somewhere, but at the same time, if someone pulled up to a snazzy restaurant in one, it would look in place there as well.

Some elements like the stepped roof date back to the first generation Discovery, which helped accommodate the rear passengers better, it takes on the same function here as well.
Coming to the rear, it looks like the designers chopped off the rear end and just added a tailgate there as a finishing touch. Like the other Land Rovers, the hatch opens upwards instead of sideways. Well, it’s not that big a deal, but opening it in cramped spaces might be a bit of a problem.

On the move, it transforms into one fine looking automobile! Beware of those LED lights blinding people though.

Interiors
Inside, you’ll find that there’s copious amount of leather, wood and metal finishings. The seats are supple and comfortable while the slabs of wood — real wood, we might add — on the dash add a nice bit of texture to it. Of course, the control systems and gear levers are all clad in aluminium to spruce it up a little.

Look up and you don’t see much of anything really, just a really large piece (two pieces, actually) of glass that separates you from the outside world, yet, despite all of that, none of the cacophony of the outside world manages to creep into the cabin. This one is a proper seven-seater, with two front-facing seats at the rear, but that stepped roof we talked about earlier and the length of the vehicle ensures that even the last row occupants are seated comfortably as well.

Apart from the ample space and the ability to bring the outside world inside, thanks to the dual sun roofs, the Discovery also has a touch screen info-tainment system embedded into the dashboard which also has the ability to play videos when stationary. For something quite so capable and rugged, the interior is surprisingly luxurious and refined.

Performance
With a 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine under the hood, the same engine found under the hood of the likes of the Jaguar XF and the XJ, this beast manages to hide its weight very well on the move. Since this car uses sequential turbochargers, there is quite literally no lag. Sequential turbochargers basically consist of one smaller turbocharger for low-end boost and a larger one for high rpm power. By using a system like this, the driveability of an engine is significantly increased. In traffic, for example, you push the accelerator and the response is immediate, with no wait for the turbo to kick in.

So, despite its size, it’s more than easily managed in the city thanks to the power and control at hand. Apart from the normal gear lever, there’s also the Land Rover trademarked terrain response system which controls the central and rear differential locks and the throttle response to make off roading a breeze. Just select the kind of surface you’re driving on and the system takes care of everything else for you. We decided to test the system out, no, not on Mumbai’s roads, but on a muddy patch off the road where it would have been very possible to get stuck.

Well, put it into the mud ruts position and the Discovery trudged through it without batting an eyelid! And if you are a Mumbai-ite, you’d know it takes hours to do a Vasai to Worli run. The Discovery cleaned it up in 55 minutes flat, weaving in and out of regular traffic with panache.

Ride and handling
As for the handling, keeping up with the sedans is a breeze, but don’t go hunting after them in the corners though. As nimble as it feels, the Discovery is still a high-set SUV and that shows through when you go to take a corner. There’s body roll, but if it comes to it, the car will grip and pull you through the corner and that feels empowering.

The ride quality is fantastic, you will barely feel a thing on our roads. And while you will be tempted to use that terrain response system here, you can go without it and won’t notice a thing. Low speed as well as high speed undulations and bumps are dealt with such poise that you won’t believe you aren’t sitting in something this side of a luxury yacht.

Verdict
Well, then, we’ve already driven the smaller Freelander 2 and told you that it’s the best SUV you could buy in that price range, so where does that put this? Well, to be completely honest, the Freelander is still all the SUV you really need. Sure, it doesn’t come with nearly as much capability as the Discovery for puttering around town in, but considering the condition of the roads, you may well be using all those capabilities soon.

Okay, so the Discovery is a lot more refined on the inside, and that engine, well, it has to be experienced to be believed, so really, if you’ve got the money, there’s absolutely no reason not to go for it. It’s a luxury car, road rocket and off-roader combined into one, in that unmistakably boxy package.

SPEC-SHEET
Land Rover Discovery 4
3 litre V6 TDV HSE
Price (Mumbai, without Octroi): Rs73.7-78 lakh
Kitna deti hai? 12 kmpl in our test
Fuel tank: 82 litre
Full tank good for: Over 900 km
Engine: 2933cc, V-6, turbo-diesel
Power: 245 bhp@4000 rpm
Torque: 600 nm@2000 rpm
Suspension: Automatic Air
Good for family of 2 to 7: Oh Yes!
Dimensions in feet: L/W/H 15.87/7.13/6.02




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